India, Afghanistan discuss Taliban, regional security

India, Afghanistan discuss Taliban, regional security

New Delhi: Afghan President Hamid Karzai held talks with Indian leaders on Monday about his efforts to reach out to the Taliban for a negotiated settlement of the nine-year-old conflict in his country.

New Delhi fears any Afghan plan to broker a deal with the Taliban will undermine its security and give rival Pakistan greater influence there. Pakistan, one of a handful of countries that recognized the Taliban regime before the US invasion in 2001, is seen as a key player in any plan for reconciliation.

“We discussed...reintegration and reconciling of those elements of the Taliban and others who have accepted the Afghan constitution, who are not part of Al Qaeda, who are not part of any terrorist network," Karzai said after talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Karzai has proposed a plan to reintegrate low-level fighters back into Afghan society and also sought to reconcile with senior insurgents provided they give up weapons.

An immediate breakthrough is unlikely, analysts say, pointing to previous offers to re-integrate fighters that failed to make much progress. The Taliban have also rejected any offer of talks saying foreign forces must first leave Afghanistan.

“The Prime Minister and I discussed the situation in Afghanistan, the situation in the region and our common struggle against terrorism and extremism," Karzai said, reading from a statement.

Karzai will be travelling to Bhutan on Tuesday to attend a regional summit where the prime ministers of India and Pakistan will also be present and could meet, external affairs minister S.M. Krishna said on Monday. “I am not ruling it out," Doordarshan channel quoted him as saying in Thimpu, of a possible meeting between the leaders of India and Pakistan.

New Delhi saw a militant attack on a Kabul guest house that killed six Indians in February as a signal of efforts to reduce India’s influence in Afghanistan. It was the third major attack against Indian interests in two years.

“I conveyed to President Karzai that the perpetrators of such attacks will not succeed in undermining India’s commitment to assist the Afghan people," Singh said in his statement.

New Delhi has several developmental projects in Afghanistan, including construction of power lines and highways worth $1.3 billion.